Egypt had long become a synonym for the proverbial neo-colonial state, America's chief ally in the Arab world and North Africa. Cairo, under the government of President Hosni Mubarak, was the cornerstone of the US political agenda in the Arab world. Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel and establish diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.
In spite of Egypt's impeccable revolutionary credentials under the late President Gamal Abdul-Nasser, the country continued--under the late President Anwar Sadat and after his assassination by militant Islamists in 6 October 1981, Hosni Mubarak--with the peace treaty with Israel regardless of popular discontent and rejection of the treaty. Egypt thus became a byword for the "sell-out state".
Moreover, the excellent economic and political relations Nasser established with African states south of the Sahara soon drifted into oblivion. Egypt progressively distanced itself from African affairs. President Mubarak rarely turned up at African Union summits, dispatching successive foreign ministers to represent his country, a far cry from the days of Gamal Abdul-Nasser.
Worse, Egypt cultivated the animosity of the Nile Basin countries such as Ethiopia and several of the Great Lakes nations because of Cairo's deliberate disregard for the water rights of upstream Nile Basin nations. Instead of cementing economic and commercial relations with Africa south of the Sahara, Mubarak's government ignored Africa and African affairs.
The Egyptian security apparatus and police force treated black African residents in the country with utter contempt and cultivated a racist attitude among the authorities and populace at large. Africans were routinely rounded up, incarcerated and summarily deported. As a result, they lived in terror of police repression, abuse and deportation.
The massacre in 2005 of Sudanese refugees in Mostafa Mahmoud Square in Mohandiseen, a suburb of Giza, was the culmination of a decade of oppression of Africans by the Egyptian authorities. Mubarak strengthened ties with his Western benefactors, especially the US and EU countries. Africa became irrelevant in Egyptian foreign policy priorities, even though Africa, and especially the Nile Basin nations, represented the strategic depth and lifeline of Egypt because of its utter reliance for its water from the Nile with its sources in the Great Lakes region and Ethiopia.
Africa, as far as Mubarak's government was concerned, was a remote backwater not worthy of the respect of the powers in Egypt. Thousands of black African women worked as domestic servants in the homes of wealthy Egyptians in the most oppressive conditions, which graphically drives the point home. To the Egyptian elite, black Africans were destitute slaves devoid of cultural refinements.
The irony is that the Egyptian elite, with Mubarak's henchmen at the helm, treated ordinary Egyptians with similar contempt. Those on the underside of history, the impoverished millions of Egyptians, Sudanese and other Africans from Africa south of the Sahara, were persecuted and their civil rights were denied. A country of 85 million people, and an illiteracy rate of 50%; Egypt was ripe for revolution.
The rich got richer, the elite got more Westernised, and the poor Egyptians, who constituted over 90% of the population, got poorer and more desperate as their living standards declined and job prospects disappeared. Egypt never suffered systematic racial segregation like South Africa or the US, but it was crystal clear to any resident of the country that the economic and political elite was lighter in complexion than the proletariat and peasantry. The darker-skinned Egyptians occupied the lowest strata of society. The Westernisation of its economic and political elite ultimately and inevitably led to the militant Islamist backlash. …